The 2024 election campaign for the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra – which concluded after two months on May 18 – was as colourful and funny as the occasional boisterous brawls erupting among the Gauls of Asterix’s ‘indomitable village’, but the bizarre political antics and allegations left the common man bewildered and speechless.

Coming after five years, the poll campaign saw national and state leaders ranging from Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP to the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, NCP (SP)’s Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena (UBT)’s Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shinde, NCP’s Ajit Pawar and many others, engaging in an all-out war of words.

The state campaign witnessed the unexpected entry of characters like Gabbar Singh (of ‘Sholay’), terrorist Ajmal Kasab (hanged Nov. 2012), eerie ‘bhatakti atma’ (wandering soul), funeral pitchers (used for the dead), duplicate political parties and ‘nakli santaan’ (illicit progeny), plus Bollywood dialogues and more, that recoiled as well as regaled the audiences at big and small political rallies.

PM Modi spooked the state’s political spectrum when he envisioned an unidentified ‘bhatakti atma’ running amok for 45 years and putting unholy obstacles in the way of Pune’s progress and prosperity.

A confused and pale-faced ally Ajit Pawar wondered who – or what – the PM was actually referring to, as he had completed nearly 45 years in politics, compared with Uncle Sharad Pawar’s 56-plus years in public life, but after a furore, the ‘bhatakti atma’ went poof from the poll campaign.

Early in the campaign, Ajit Pawar directed his grouse at an ex-acolyte turned Sharad Pawar loyalist, actor Dr. Amol R. Kolhe, lambasting him for ignoring the Shirur LS seat, and even grumbled why actors (he named many other big names) seek to crowd the poll scenario using their glamour quotient and nothing else…

Lashing out at the BJP’s Sujay Vikhe-Patil, Kolhe said “you have gaadi, bangla, but we have peoples’ support”, to which Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil shot back saying “you have only goons”.

Priyanka Gandhi took potshots at PM Modi, pointing out how “the PM cries like a child on his problems rather than wiping tears of the people”, but none from the ruling side reacted to her statement in Nandurbar.

Rahul Gandhi also locked horns with PM Modi, for ‘lying’ to the country, diverting attention to non-issues, or criticising the 65 years of Congress rule instead of speaking about his 10 years reign as PM.

At one point, Uddhav Thackeray challenged an Election Commission of India (ECI) diktat, and vowed to use the words ‘Hindu’, ‘Jai Bhavani’ and even added ‘Har Har Mahadev’ battle cry to his poll speeches, besides daring the ECI to act against PM Modi for using similar language in his campaign.

During a speech, SS (UBT)’s Priyanka Chaturvedi took a potshot at ‘traitor’ Shinde and his LS candidate son Dr. Shrikant Shinde, invoking a filmy dialogue (“Deewar”) in which Amitabh Bachchan’s left arm was etched with ‘Mera Baap Chor Hai’ and she said Shinde Jr. would forever carry the cross of ‘Mera Baap Gaddar Hai’ written on his forehead, igniting a huge row.

Needling the opposition parties, Shinde once smiled and said that the BJP has an ‘atom bomb’ called Modi who can carry out a ‘surgical strike’ anywhere anytime, ostensibly referring to the vertical splits in the Shiv Sena (June 2022) and NCP (July 2023).

Uddhav Thackeray hit back at his bete-noire Shinde, calling him a ghost and son Aditya Thackeray termed the CM a ‘blatant liar’, while BJP chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule retorted by labelling Thackeray senior a ‘MahaNalayak’ (super-worthless) fellow.

In Baramati, some overzealous supporters of the NCP smashed round pitchers of clay (usually broken during Hindu funeral rites), prompting furious reactions from NCP (SP)’s Supriya Sule, Dr. Jitendra Awhad and Rohit R. Pawar, who asked the rival Ajit Pawar group “why these pots are being broken and to signify whose end”, but the embarrassed ruling side had no answers.

At a political meet, a sad Ajit Pawar, 64, rued how he had waited for years to progress politically (as CM), but it did not happen as he “was not the son of Sharad Pawar”.

Again pushing Sharad Pawar, 83, to the ‘margdarshak mandal’, Ajit Pawar said that “after crossing 80, you must make way for others… do ‘puja-paath’ at home and mentor the next generation”, but his Uncle is still running ‘sairat’ (carefree, like the superhit Marathi film by the same title) on the political stage.

The dapper BJP candidate Piyush Goyal turned heads when he started a footmarch with his face covered to avoid the obnoxious stink of a slummy fishing hamlet, and many of the poor folks shook their heads in disapproval; and while attending a motorcycle rally in the blistering sun, he lolled in his cool comfy car for a few kilometres, as his supporters toiled and sweated it out.

Questioning certain remarks by Congress Leader of Opposition (Assembly) Vijay Wadettiwar pertaining to the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes, the ruling allies slammed the opposition parties for allegedly supporting the Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab (hanged for the Mumbai 26/11 terror strikes) instead of its LS nominee ace criminal lawyer Ujjwal Nikam.

On his part, a miffed Nikam urged the uppity and glam crowds to “vote for me if you don’t want Bandra to become another Dharavi (slum)”, brutally targeting his Congress rival Prof. Varsha Gaikwad, who is the sitting MLA from the Dharavi seat.

PM Modi generated angst and uproar when he referred to Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray’s parties as ‘nakli’ and even called the latter a ‘nakli santaan’ of the late Balasaheb Thackeray, leading to sharp exchanges.

In the absence of any perceptible political wave in the 2024 LS elections, it was left to the parties and their leaders to create big and small ripples to grab public attention and convert it into votes.

As in the past, all the posturing, rough-and-tough election battle language and enmity are likely to be buried, foes may turn friends and everything would be forgotten once the poll results are declared (June 4) – till the next election season!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *